Week 7 of the high school football season has become time for our annual dusting off the crystal ball to see how conference races and the playoff picture look in the Fox Valley.
Before we get into that breakdown, I will say the best part of this football season has been watching the rise of the Dundee-Crown Chargers. A program that has struggled for many years has appeared to turn the corner and all the credit in the world goes to coach Vito Andriola, his staff and the kids who stuck with it during the bad times.
In fact, this could be a banner year for District 300 football. Never before have all three D300 schools -- Dundee-Crown, Jacobs and Hampshire -- made the state football playoffs in the same season. Barring something unforeseen by the crystal ball, 2013 will be the year that finally happens.
So, without further adieu, here's what the crystals say for the final 3 weeks of the season.
Upstate Eight River: The big question right now is this: Will Larkin rally around outgoing coach Mike Scianna and made it to the dance for the first time since 2006? The Royals can become playoff eligible with two wins in their final three games but the reality is they probably won't have enough points (opponent's wins) to get in at 5-4. Larkin has 20 playoff points right now. Last year's cut was 38 and it's unlikely Larkin will get to that number, so the Royals need to win out against Bartlett, St. Charles North and St. Charles East. Not an unheard of task, and if they win the first two of those three you can bet they'll be sky high for Week 8 against the Saints, who could also be playing for their postseason life that night.
The River title should be Batavia's, unless the Bulldogs stumble against St. Charles North, SCE or Elgin. Geneva (4-2) also figures to be in good shape for the postseason, finishing against Elgin, Metea Valley and Streamwood.
St. Charles North clearly needs, like Larkin, to win out so since they play each other next week, one figures to be done after that game -- and they both could be as winning this week against Batavia and Bartlett respectively will be no easy challenge.
UEC Valley: The Friday night battle between Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley will likely decide the division title and give the winner the inside track to an 8-1 regular season and a high seed in the playoffs. With 26 points, Metea Valley should get in with at least two more wins, and that could be it for the Valley this year. At 2-4 and with 26 points, Bartlett could get in if it wins out, and the Hawks play winnable games the next two weeks against Larkin and South Elgin but they finish with Neuqua. If the Hawks can pull off the miracle finish they'll likely have enough points to get in. If not, it will be just the second time (and first since 2009) they haven't played at least a 10th week.
FVC Valley: Another big battle Friday night will go a long way in deciding the division champ as Jacobs hosts Cary-Grove, both coming in unbeaten in Valley play. And as is the case many years with FVC teams, their playoff point totals -- 33 for the Trojans and 28 for the Golden Eagles -- won't be an issue. Both C-G and Jacobs stand at 4-2 overall, so whichever team loses this week's battle will want to win out to avoid that dreaded 5-4 trip to a 9-0 in the first round. Cary-Grove finishes with Crystal Lake South and Hampshire, while Jacobs has Huntley then the rivalry battle with Dundee-Crown.
The Chargers are not in such great shape with points. They can secure their first playoff bid since 1994 with a win against Prairie Ridge this week, but everyone at D-C knows they have to win one more to be guaranteed of the playoff berth. D-C (5-1) would like nothing better than to keep its roll going and finish 8-1, thus pretty much guaranteeing D-C its first home playoff game since 1987.
Huntley (3-3) is in decent shape with 26 points. The Red Raiders finish with McHenry, Jacobs and CL South, the latter of which has to win out to avoid being left out of the postseason for the first time since 2000. The Gators play Johnsburg this week then finish with Cary-Grove and Huntley, so the task is no easy one.
FVC Fox: Crystal Lake Central (5-1, 3-0) is on track to win the division. The Tigers finish with Woodstock North, Woodstock and Johnsburg, the bottom three teams in the league. Grayslake North (5-1) will likely need another win to get in as the Knights have just 23 points. They finish with Grayslake Central (3-3), Prairie Ridge (2-4) and Woodstock (1-5).
Then comes Hampshire. At 4-2 and with 25 points, the Whip-Purs could be on the bubble for their first playoff berth since 2009 if they don't go 6-3. A win this week against Woodstock would set up a likely clinching party next week against Johnsburg. Stumbling against either of those beatable teams would put the Whips' back against the wall in Week 9 against Cary-Grove.
Suburban Christian Blue: If St. Edward (4-2) and St. Francis (3-3) can take care of business and get to 5 wins, the SCC Blue could have all six teams make the playoffs, something pretty much unheard of. Montini, Marmion, Aurora Christian and Marian Central are all locks. St. Edward, which last made the dance in 2010, can become playoff eligible this week with a win over Wheaton Academy (3-3). The Green Wave then head to Marian Central next week and finish with St. Francis. St. Edward has 28 points and St. Francis 33, so they should both make the cut at 5-4 but we all know what happens to 5-4 teams in the first round -- they rarely win.
Big Northern East: Burlington Central (2-4) has 27 points, so the Rockets could get in if they win out against Richmond, Rock Falls and North Boone. One more loss and there won't be a 10th game for BC. The BN-East title looks like it will come down to next week's Harvard vs. Genoa-Kingston game.
NAC: Even though Westminster Christian never figured to make the playoffs in its first season of varsity football, the Northeastern Athletic Conference the Warriors compete in could produce seven playoff teams. Ottawa Marquette is rolling to the conference title but Rockford Christian Life, Chicago Hope, Alden-Hebron, Mooseheart, Luther North and Kirkland Hiawatha all stand a shot at the postseason.
Westminster's "playoff" game is next week. The Warriors stand a good chance of their first win when they host winless Christian Liberty, a team that has scored only 12 points this season.
One thing's for sure as it all shakes out -- we'll be ready as ever for the IHSA's version of the NCAA Selection Show on Saturday night, Oct. 26.
And then it's on to the dance.